Release Date: Jan 26, 2010
Record label: Credential
It’s hard to think of an artist in a more enviable position than Patty Griffin. Fifteen years ago, she had a guitar, a sweet voice, and a crush on Bruce Springsteen, but no recording contract. Today she’s perched among the elite singer-songwriters of her generation. She has released five critically acclaimed records, each more accomplished than the last, won over a legion of ardent followers, and sold many millions of records as a songwriter for everyone from the Dixie Chicks and Bette Midler to Solomon Burke and Jessica Simpson.
In many respects, art is about the process that goes into the creation of the work as much as the work itself; the path that leads to a final creative vision can often mean as much to the art as the physical technique or the initial inspiration. It's a process not unlike faith, in which the road to spiritual understanding plays a powerful role in informing one's beliefs, and both art and faith play a crucial role in Patty Griffin's seventh album, Downtown Church. While Griffin has described herself as a "lapsed Catholic," she's also spoken of herself as a seeker who believes in the spiritual dimensions of music, and she's a passionate devotee of classic gospel music, with the influences showing clearly on her 2007 album, Children Running Through.
With her previous album, 2007’s exceptional Children Running Through, having been accurately tagged as “secular gospel,” singer-songwriter Patty Griffin takes the next logical step on Downtown Church, an album of actual gospel tunes that she recorded while singing from the pulpit in a historic Nashville church. Among contemporary music’s most effortlessly, exquisitely soulful vocalists, Griffin is a natural for this material, bringing such passion and genuine grace to her performances that even a nonbeliever can get on board. Even when backed by a full choir on the stirring “Move Up,” and with such luminaries as Emmylou Harris, Raul Malo, and Shawn Colvin providing harmony vocals on standout cuts like the bluesy “If I Had My Way” and the nearly a cappella “Death’s Got a Warrant,” Griffin still emerges from Church as a real show-stealing powerhouse.
Folk songstress offers Sunday-morning spirituals The details behind Patty Griffin’s seventh release are intriguing enough without listening to a single song: The entire record was cut in a 160-year-old Presbyterian church that once welcomed Andrew Jackson and survived the Civil War as a hospital for Union soldiers. There’s something about Griffin’s trilling pipes ricocheting through this vast and timeworn sanctuary that paints the album in an otherworldly, eternal hue as she dips deeply into gospel traditions. On pastoral lullaby “House of Gold,” Griffin belts through the sleepy ambience of organ and guitar, denying earth’s most precious metals for her faith in an invisible grace.
Griffin and her cohorts deliver a collection of astonishing songs. Nick Barraclough 2010 If an artist is to be judged by her friends, Patty Griffin is a superstar. Her songs have been recorded by Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Dixie Chicks; Buddy and Julie Miller are guests on this album, as is the gorgeous voice of former Maverick Raul Malo.